Asheville has always been the hub of commerce for Western NC, and has seen over two centuries of growth and changes, with a steady stream of visitors and residents coming to its downtown. Whether the purpose of coming downtown was for business, entertainment, social connections or just to pass through, the presence of the arts has been a part of the experience.
In the early days, downtown businesses sold handcrafted functional goods among their clothing, hardware, and general stores. Craft shops and art galleries were not to be found. However, in 1908 a visionary and influential woman named Frances L. Goodrich brought her rural cottage industry, located almost 40 miles away, into downtown Asheville. Allanstand Craft Shop opened in downtown Asheville that same year and sold handmade baskets, ceramic ware, woven items, furniture, ironwork, and more, made by artisans from the surrounding mountain communities.
Downtown Asheville thrived and was an exciting small city until the Great Depression, after which there was a decline that lasted about fifty years. In the later decades of the 20th-Century, a dedicated group of local businesses and advocates fought to keep Asheville’s historic structures intact and slowly the arts breathed life back into downtown. Music venues, bookstores, independent art retailers and restaurants opened their doors, and so the re-growth of downtown began.
In 1999, a group of galleries formed the Downtown Gallery Association, later to become the Downtown Asheville Art District, a conglomerate of fine art and craft businesses dedicated to supporting one another and bolstering the arts in downtown Asheville.
Inspiration to every corner.